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The Politics of Postponement and the 2020 General Conference

By David F. Watson

The United Methodist General Conference has been postponed until 2024.

For a brief, gleaming moment it looked as if we might be able to resolve our differences in the UMC without further hostility. The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation provided a way beyond our ecclesiastical death embrace. Traditionalists, progressives, and centrists came to the table. They worked with a highly-respected, experienced professional mediator. No group came away with everything it wanted, but everyone could agree to terms that were at least acceptable. That is the nature of compromise.

The postponement of the General Conference has dealt a serious blow to the Protocol. Let us not be naive about the dynamics behind this decision. Under the terms of the Protocol, traditionalist congregations would have been allowed to leave with minimal financial penalty, and the Global Methodist Church would receive $25 million to fund its launch. Without the Protocol, the GMC gets nothing, churches will have to buy their way out of the denomination, and depending upon the disposition of one’s bishop and conference trustees, it may be very difficult and expensive to leave.


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